Sheikh Hamad's rise to power began with his appointment as the commander of a military brigade upon his return from England. Under Sheikh Hamad's command, the brigade became one of the best-trained and most effective military forces in the Gulf region. During the Gulf War, the members of the brigade distinguished themselves in recapturing the town of Khafji from Iraqi forces.
Hamad's rise to power was made possible by his ability to establish close ties with other influential families in Qatari politics and by his successful use of these alliances to defeat potential rivals within the royal family, including his younger brother Abdel Aziz. By late 1989, when he was given more responsibilities in running the country, Sheikh Hamad had already established himself as the second most influential person in Qatari politics, the first being the emir himself. Hamad's court had emerged to rival the emir's court in influence and prestige. In July 1989, using his influence, he was able to replace potential rivals in the Council of Ministers by younger men close to himself. He was also successful in curbing some of the more extravagant privileges of the members of the royal family and other high officials in the government.
Sheikh Hamad's political ascent continued. In June 1993, he was appointed deputy emir. On 27 June 1995, Sheikh Hamad in a bloodless coup deposed his father Sheikh Khalifa, who was vacationing in Switzerland, and proclaimed himself as the new emir and prime minister of Qatar. His ascent to power was met with the approval of Qatar's foreign allies including the United States and neighboring Gulf states. It was also supported by significant portions of the al-Thani family and the business community, both Qatari and foreign, who found the former emir too conservative in carrying out economic reforms.